A Travellerspoint blog

November 2009

Goa - Fun and sun on India's beaches

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Goa is a province that remained a colony of Portugal for about a decade after India's independence from Britain. There are some great beaches, and it is a popular spot among Europeans for resort holidays. Since we went by train rather than on a package tour, we were able to go to a town where the beaches aren't full of tourists and paid just Rs 250 (just over $5) per night for our hotel room. Sue spent most of her time near the beach, and I went into the sea for a few hours, swimming with and against the current, jumping over the waves (the water was mostly knee to waist high), and just playing over there.

There were lots of crayfish, tiny crabs, and starfish. The crabs move around a lot when their ground is disturbed, so that when you upon picking up handful of sand the sand usually vibrates until the crab isn't there anymore. I tried to get crayfish to fight, but didn't have any luck with that. We dug for clams toward the end of our second day there, and some locals Sue befriended helped. We ended up with a big bag of clams, and we spent about an hour to find a restaurant which would cook it. Most places the staff looked at us like there was something wrong with us for wanting to eat clams, but finally we found a place. They were very good, though a bit sandy.

Posted by chrisvasil 02:58 Archived in India Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Update - North India (Oct 17-Nov 5)

Posted Nov 27

My most recent update comprises half our India trip, so I'm now 3 weeks behind.
We are now in Penang, Malaysia, and leaving for Phuket, Thailand tomorrow.
Under 3 months before I go back home, I reckon :(
Also updated the map, showing where we've traveled since early June

Posted by chrisvasil 02:44 Comments (0)

Mumbai - Bollywood, the slums, and everything in between

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Mumbai is a really interesting city, running the gamut from the slums through the stock exchange, and also including the clothes washing ghats, antique and recycling districts, some new and old buildings, and some excellent food (the best tandoori chicken we found in India).

On the way to Mumbai, we were on a fancy train - it had power outlets. Unfortunately it had a safety feature whereby it was impossible to plug anything into the bottom holes without first lifting the (red) safety barrier by jamming a finger or pen into the top hole and pushing upward. Worst safety feature ever.

We spent a long time looking for a clock tower that is supposed to be very famous and reasonably close to the transit stop closest to - no one had heard of it when we asked for directions, and we walked about 5km - almost always in the right direction - before finding it. On the way there were a few interesting sites, like the stock exchange near which Mumbai's bankers snack on elaborately carved fruit towers. The clock tower itself is in fact the library of university campus, and access to the campus was blocked off by guards. The clock is ordinary, but next to it is a pretty church with spiral spires.

Mumbai being in India, there were a host of interesting random sights, like a dude sleeping in a basket and people carring big loads on their heads.

Near the main antique district is a large recycling district, with people taking apart cars and stacking parts of all sorts, using old clothes as inner liners to new clothes, etc.

The laundry ghat is a self-enclosed village where thousands of dhobi-whallahs (dalits, or untouchables) soak, soap, thrash, and clean industrial amounts of clothes. Laundry generally costs about 8 Rs (under 20 cents) per piece, including transport and the shopkeeper's costs and profits, and after seeing how long is spent on each step we'd estimate close to half an hour is spent on each piece. This specialized complex was built by the government several decades ago.

The Mumbai slums, made famous in Slumdog Millionaire, are an incredible place. We went without a guide, and we found hard work and entrepreneurship rather than the poverty and desperation we were expecting. Built over 1.5 square kilometers and constantly rumoured to be about to be cleared for development, the slums house hundreds of thousands of people, mostly labourers, mostly in ramshackle corrugated steel huts. There are also lots of businesses - shops taking apart electronics, shredding bumpers, selling used doors, making textiles and components to unknown devices.

My homeless-looking feet after a day in the slums

The city itself is a peninsula, actually 7 islands which were connected in the 19th century using landfill. Because of the shape of the city, being a sliver of land, it is possible the 3 transit lines all run northbound starting from city center and actually use the railway and become suburban trains north of the city (stops are 1km apart in the city and up to 15 km apart in the suburbs).

Posted by chrisvasil 02:57 Archived in India Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Delhi - Indian wedding, finally

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We were very excited to be able to get invited into the wedding of a friend of my friend Asif's, and came back to Delhi for that. The day before the wedding we were invited into another wedding. As we were walking back home there seemed to be a commotion next door, and as we tried to see what it was the people out front pointed us inside. It was dying down (or just getting starting), all that was there was some guys dancing inside and the groom outside on a camel.

The next day was the real wedding, a hybrid between a North Indian groom and a South Indian bride. We had bought traditional Indian clothes for the occasion, and were all set. The wedding itself was actually more similar to a western wedding (and less Bollywood) than we were expecting, but still quite different - the ceremony lasted for over an hour with rice being thrown at intervals, and the dress was different.



On an unrelated note - here is a change of name notification (Lovely Jain changing her name to Preety Jain), and a cell phone ad at the ladies waiting room, wishing "bye bye STD" (STDs in India are like payphones, not like crabs).

Posted by chrisvasil 02:55 Archived in India Tagged events Comments (0)

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